Young Cynthia sits in her wheelchair at home, her mum smiling at her
28 September 2021

Child Sponsorship transforming Cynthia’s life

Seizures, disability and a mum who didn’t know where to turn.

The future is bright

Eight-year-old Cynthia’s start in life was grim, and it got worse. But thanks to World Vision Child Sponsorship, her life has been transformed.

When she was born, in Kenya, her mother Janet saw no sign of the challenges Cynthia would be facing. As the days went by, Cynthia smiled, then learned to sit up. She turned six months old and was learning to crawl.

But then, she started having epileptic seizures. Suddenly, Cynthia could no longer move.

Janet had to carry her daughter everywhere – to go to the toilet, when they went to the field, when they went to the market.

Heartache

Like many in their community, Janet worked hard just to put food on the table, but as Cynthia grew, it got harder and harder. Not only carrying her around, but the heartache of seeing the barriers her daughter would face. By the end of the day, Janet’s body – and heart – ached.

Around the world, people with disabilities like Cynthia face enormous challenges – not only related to their health condition, but because of the social stigma associated with disability. In some places, it is seen as a curse, or a punishment. In many developing countries people with disabilities face a lack of medical care, including trained doctors, treatment options and physical aids.

Cynthia being carried by her mum, in their bare dirt home.
Until Cynthia was given a wheelchair, Janet had to carry her everywhere.

Double disadvantage

For girls living with a disability, the situation is even harder: they face a double disadvantage from both disability and gender discrimination. Girls and women with any form of disability are among the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society. We've seen that children with disabilities in developing countries often don't get the opportunity to go to school - but girls with disabilities face even greater exclusion than boys in all areas of life.

Many people with disabilities face difficulties in finding work but men with disabilities are almost twice as likely to have jobs as women. Women and girls with disabilities are therefore much more likely to live in poverty, and to be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

James Keitany, a World Vision disability inclusion expert, explains, “Families see education as an investment in their future, but with limited resources, they often choose not to invest in children with disabilities because they believe they have less potential.”

Thankfully, World Vision could invest in Cynthia and her mother, because of her sponsors.

World Vision began working in her community and, with sponsors’ support, local staff visited the homes of children with disabilities to ensure the children and their families understood their rights and got access to the resources they needed. They encouraged parents to send their children to school and trained teachers how to include children with disabilities in school.

Inclusion

Our teams began to help people in Cynthia’s community form a Citizen Voice and Action group, which began lobbying the local government for better inclusion of everyone in the community. In places where it’s needed, sponsorship has also helped schools to invest in disability-friendly infrastructure like handwashing taps and toilet facilities that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

For Janet, the most exciting change of all was a brand new, proper wheelchair for Cynthia, who is now eight years old. World Vision’s wheelchair support programme, ACCESS, partnered with USAID and a local organisation to identify children like Cynthia in need of a wheelchair, provide her with one, and train Janet how to maintain it and secure Cynthia in correctly.

Janet, Kenya
"She feels happy. She feels included" - Janet, Cynthia's mum

Janet, Kenya

Cynthia's mum

The wheelchair is so much more than a way for Cynthia to get around – it’s a way for her to be part of community life. Now, Cynthia’s older sister can take her to Sunday school, where “she watches other children and listens to them singing,” says Janet. “She feels happy. She feels included.”

Thanks to the wheelchair Janet dares to imagine a different future for her daughter.

“Now that Cynthia has a wheelchair, her back is stabilising, she’s able to sit,” says Janet. “At some point, she will be able to join school and have a bright future through education.”

Her sponsor’s support has changed so much for Cynthia. World Vision staff have linked her with government programmes designed to help people with disabilities, and now a therapist visits Cynthia four times a month, and trains Janet how to do exercises with her every day.

Janet weaves cloth at a loom, so she can earn  a livelihood for her family
Janet's clothing business is now providing for her daughter

Child Sponsorship also helped Janet to set up a business making school uniforms to sell, so she can work from home while looking after Cynthia, and ensure they have food on the table each night. And thanks to a goat that Cynthia’s sponsor gave as a birthday present they can breed it to further boost their income.

For Janet, the support means she is finally free from fear of what the future will hold for Cynthia.

“Since World Vision came into our life, I’ve seen a lot of transformation,” Janet says. “I have seen that the future is bright.”

 

Right now, thousands of girls like Cynthia urgently need sponsors so they can build a fearless future.

Join our movement to sponsor 500 girls by October 11 - International Day of the Girl.

Through Child Sponsorship, you can contribute to a generation of fearless girls. When you sponsor a girl, you can help set her free of fear. Free to learn, grow and be the fearless girl she’s born to be.

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